34 Life Lessons You Learn At Jewish Summer Camp

Cult classic "Wet Hot American Summer" gets a few things about Jewish summer camp gloriously wrong: Campers are generally not left to drown in the lake, and the camp chef usually does not have an inappropriate relationship with a can of vegetables. But then, the fundamental themes in the movie are oh-so right. Camp counselors fall in and out of love and lust for reasons as petty as "you taste like a burger" and promise to be friends forever -- even if they can't agree if their reunion should be at 9:00 or 9:30.

While impatiently waiting for the promised reunion of the fine counselors and campers of "Wet Hot American Summer," we got to thinking about how influential Jewish Summer Camp is in many kids' lives, and how the experience can shape their values and character.

Children who attend Jewish summer camp are more likely to practice Jewish behaviors when they return home -- from lighting Shabbat candles to committing themselves to social justice issues -- but there are other, perhaps more secular, lessons learned as well.

Here are some of the great life lessons that Jewish summer camp teaches its attendees:

  1. "Going for a walk" is never just going for a walk.

  • You can legitimately fall in love in less than a week.
  • Buses are the best place to hold hands and surreptitiously smooch.
  • Patience is a skill. It was a struggle to have to wait to eat until everyone said a blessing over the food at every single meal.
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  • How to smuggle candy. The best way to make friends is by giving them the coolest candy you’ve got in the bin under your bed.
  • It's OK for boys to cry because they love their friends.
  • Anything -- including cleaning bathrooms, washing dishes and picking up trash -- can be fun if you are doing it with friends to help keep a place that you love running smoothly.
  • Nature is a huge part of religion. Throughout the year, religion is usually taught inside buildings -- schools, homes, synagogues. Summer camp is the first time many young people connect with Judaism on a physical level, by hiking or camping out.
  • Swimming in a lake is not as scary as the movies make it out to be.
  • Smell fades. When you're canoe tripping and no one has showered for two weeks you stop smelling how gross you are.
  • The lyrics to surprisingly inappropriate songs that were chanted in front of the whole camp.
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    The Huffington Post's Senior Women's Editor Emma Gray (second from right) chilling at Habonim Dror Camp Moshava in Street, Maryland, circa 1997.

  • Gaga > dodgeball. And it can define you as a person.
  • A good prank earns you unlimited social credibility.
  • The value of natural beauty. If you put on makeup or straightened your hair you were immediately thrown in the lake.
  • If you say your tummy hurts or your head is spinning you'll get popsicles from the nurses.
  • How to be a less insufferable only child. Being forced to share everything -- food, clothing, shampoo, personal space -- with 10 other kids teaches you not only how to share, but how to enjoy sharing.
  • There are always more fish in the sea. (Having 12 boyfriends in 8 weeks is completely normal.)
  • You can measure how much your parents love you. Just look at the size, creativity, and frequency of their care packages.
  • Age groups don’t limit friendship.
  • The best games are the ones you make up yourself.
  • Even when things sucked in the real world, summer camp was the microcosm that gets you through those awkward, uncomfortable experiences during the year.
  • Two words: Color War.
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    The Huffington Post's Associate Style Editor Jamie Feldman (right) at summer camp.

  • If you place a group of girls and a group of boys in the same room for a social -- no matter what the rules are -- weird things will happen.
  • Singing folk songs around a campfire really IS fun.
  • Lice is very real and very horrible. And it’s good way to find out who everyone’s been making out with.
  • Having every color of the rainbow Champion sweatshirt means you’ve reached ultimate style status.
  • Going on a raid and getting caught the night before your parents come to visit isn’t smart.
  • You spend years terrified of Cropsy. And eventually you spend years terrifying your campers with Cropsy.
  • A day is a week, a week is a month, a month is a year.
  • The cultural aspects of Judaism are the most sacred -- it's not only about the ceremonies and the blessings, but about the traditions, stories and songs that weave through the lives of every Jewish person and connect us all.
  • Judaism is inextricably linked to social justice. Building a Jewish identity doesn’t have to center around God, it can center around community and making the world a better place together.
  • Tie-dye will stain your hands for a long, long time.
  • Sobbing uncontrollably when you’re saying goodbye to friends who live up to 45 minutes away from your house is totally justified (because who’s going to drive you 45 minutes?)
  • How to keep in touch with faraway friends over the course of the year. Learning that childhood friendships can span across the country, and can be maintained for longer than you'd ever imagine.
  • Did we miss any? Tell us in the comments below.